When people of color burn out in the workplace, they often focus on the immediate factors: a challenging relationship with a boss; unpredictable working hours that make work-life balance difficult; and perhaps, if they feel safe about sharing, the prejudice and aggression that are all too pervasive in American working life. There is no doubt that being the only black trader on the floor in the week after George Floyd’s murder had real mental health implications. In fact, the CDC reports a surge in anxiety and depression among black Americans immediately after the horrific video surfaced.
In response to this and other mental health crises, a number of digital health startups have jumped into the fray, promising to take care of the mental wellbeing of employees from all backgrounds. In fact, employers and investors are making more funds and resources available in the face of rapidly increasing demand from workers Mental health initiatives and start-ups. Companies like Cerebral, Lyra, Ginger, and Talkspace help employees connect with vendors. While these services can be helpful, they tend to overlook the root causes why people of color are more likely to experience anxiety and depression in the workplace: isolation and feeling burned out from being the only person of color in the room. These disparities are compounded by the fact that while the US population has become more diverse, US jobs are more segregated. When high-growth, high-wage companies hire blacks, those workers are few and far between.
As companies try to hire more people of color, how do they ensure new hires aren’t burned out and looking to exit? Black executives report that feelings of isolation fuel their burnout. In response, large corporations have created affinity-based resource groups for employees. For example, Black Googler Network offers everything from professional development and mentoring programs to leading dialogues on issues affecting the Black community. And the Hispanics of the Linkedin Alliance Host a quarterly meeting with LinkedIn’s CEO to raise awareness of issues affecting them.
However, most companies simply don’t have the numbers to build such affinity groups, either because the company is a small business or because there is a lack of diversity internally. In fact, companies that are now committed to building a more diverse workforce face a dilemma. When people of color join, they may be the only person in their organization with their background, which can lead to the feelings of isolation and burnout described above. Research shows that tIf companies don’t hire enough people of color to build a community, they are more likely to leave the company.
Fortunately, a new model for dealing with feelings of isolation and burnout has emerged in recent years, one that does not focus on the needs of employees within a specific company, but rather to address the feelings of isolation felt by employees of color across all companies. For example, consider the Gentleman’s Factory, a coworking space in Brooklyn that provides an environment for men of color to grow professionally and find solidarity. They write on their website: “Gentleman’s Factory aims to convey a simple message: you are not alone.”
And then there is boss, a networking community for women in leadership positions. Key to her model is an investment in “core groups,” where a small group of women leaders come together to discuss personal, leadership, and other challenges. In addition to fostering career success, Chief’s community focus aims to reduce burnout and attrition among female leaders.
Finally, one of the authors of this article, Tarun Galagali, is building a platform for BIPOC employees (mandalas). Mandala helps employers consciously create communities for their employees through their flagship service, Circles, where an outside facilitator brings together a group of BIPOC employees to talk about topics ranging from their identity to their inner critic. In doing so, they create a space of belonging and well-being and relieve resource groups of employees. Across the board, Mandala will engage companies that network their underrepresented talent so there is as much space between companies as there is within a company.
These examples, and an increasing number of startups focusing on the interplay of mental health, burnout, and inclusion, can begin to address employee burnout, particularly for people of color. But it requires companies to focus on building community as much as they focus on improving individual mental health needs. It’s just not because there’s a moral imperative here. The financial costs of race-related attrition ($34 billion), absenteeism ($54 billion), and lost productivity ($59 billion) are just beginning tabulated. So the next time leaders think about burnout for people of color, they should invest in their sense of belonging—both within the organization and by connecting employees to the wider workforce.
Tarun Galagali is a second-year MBA student at Harvard Business School and the founder of mandalasa platform of belonging and well-being for BIPOC employees. Rem Koning is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School. They are hosting a Virtual Belonging Summit on April 18th (free, virtual and open to all). Answer here.
https://www.fastcompany.com/90736508/helping-bipoc-employees-fight-burnout-and-find-community?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Helping BIPOC employees fight burnout and find community